Atheist Guide leader blocked from taking oath as troops stick to God

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An atheist Guide leader has been told she will not be able to take the new Promise because local troop leaders will be sticking with the previous one, the National Secular Society (NSS) has said.

Jem Henderson, of Harrogate, North Yorkshire, joined the organisation as a volunteer leader in June after hearing about the introduction of a new secular Promise.

The new Promise comes into effect from September 1, but this week Ms Henderson was informed by the pack leader that she would not be able to take it as the unit will keep the overtly religious one, an NSS spokesman said.

In June, Girlguiding announced it would update its Promise to emphasise that guiding is open to all girls. The updated Promise replaced the phrase “to love my God” with “be true to myself and develop my beliefs”.

The change was made after a public consultation involving nearly 44,000 people showed that different wording was needed.

Ms Henderson, 28, said: “The pack leader’s insistence on keeping the old promise excludes me and any other atheist girls from the troop, or asks us to lie when making the promise, something that surely goes against the Guiding principles. This demonstrates that the new promise is just for show, and that the Guiding movement, at least in Harrogate, is still excluding people from secular walks of life.”

Ms Henderson, said online: “I don’t know what to do. I am quite outraged by this. It’s not fair to demand a pledge to god (sic) from girls and adult volunteers that don’t believe.”

A Girlguiding spokeswoman said: “Girlguiding will work closely with local guiding when the new wording of the Promise comes into effect in September to ensure all members understand how the revised wording reflects our core values.”